The United States Prison System is in Need of Prison Reformation
Everyone knows that prisons exist, yet it’s something that is not openly spoken about. People pay billions of dollars worth of taxes that directly go to funding prisons. Why aren’t more people questioning what that money is used for, and if prisons are functioning in a way that is helpful to our society? In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice report on recidivism, which if a convicted criminal reoffends, conducted a study based on 412,731 prisoners released in 2005. Within nine years 83% of those people were arrested. The United States has one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, but we only make up about 5% of the world’s population. Nearly two-thirds of the inmates released every year return to prison. From 1980 and 2015, the number of incarcerated people increased from around 500,000 to 2.2. million in the United States.
Diving in deeper to the prison population, African Americans are incarcerated about 5 times more than whites. Around 32% of the United States population is represented by African Americans and Hispanics, but they make up about 56% of the incarceration population. Prison and jail population would drop about 40% if African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites.
These numbers should be alarming, it should be something to try and change. When looking at Sweden’s recidivism rate, it’s around 40%. There are about 6,000 people incarcerated in Sweden, however they have a smaller population. Still their recidivism rate is impressive when we compare it to the U.S. and other European countries. While high-security prisons in the U.S. often involve dehumanizing a prisoner, Swedish prisons are made to humanize those incarcerated. The goal of prison shouldn’t be punishment, the punishment is being incarcerated and not being free, the goal should be to rehabilitate and make it so that prisoners are less likely to commit another crime once they are released.
Prison guards work with prisoners, there is less violence and tension in Swedish prisons. Swedish prisoners have access to extensive libraries, an education, and the ability to learn craft skills. The goal is that prisoners don’t get released back into society with trauma, no money, no skills. The goal of Swedish prisons is to help develop helpful skills, prisoners in Sweden are able to get a new job after they are released, this helps to encourage them to not reoffend.
Nils Öberg, the director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service
Öberg says that the government and how prisons are run do not go hand in hand, there are limitations on how the government can change the prison system. In Sweden, prisons are given goals to reach every year and those in charge of the prison system change how they run things accordingly.
No prison system is perfect, but the United States prison system has many flaws that should be changed in order to help those incarcerated and to help better our society as a whole.
Aleem, Zeeshan. “Sweden’s Remarkable Prison System Has Done What the U.S. Won’t Even Consider.” Mic, Mic, 27 Jan. 2015,
Clarke , Matthew. “Long-Term Recidivism Studies Show High Arrest Rates.” Prison Legal News, 2019,
“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/.
James, Erwin. “’Prison Is Not for Punishment in Sweden. We Get People into Better Shape’ | Erwin James.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Nov. 2014,
“Sweden’s Prison System.” Rehabilitation, Not Incarceration, www.rehabilitationnotincarceration.weebly.com/swedens-prison-system.html.